URBANA — Champaign County Republicans already have candidates for committeeman in 61 of the county's 118 precincts, and party officials hope to have as many as 70 by the time the primary election period closes Monday afternoon.
By contrast, the party currently has 36 elected precinct committeemen.
"The local party understands that the way we win elections is by ensuring that each precinct has an energetic and informed committeeman representing voters," said Habeeb Habeeb, the current county party treasurer and the only announced candidate for county chairman. "We're organizing and building our party like never before."
Party officials said they began to plan for an increase in the number of committeemen earlier this year. Habeeb; Kristin Williamson, the party's vice chair of communications; and County Clerk Gordon Hulten were credited with recruiting committeeman candidates.
"Every day, we are working with interested committeemen to prepare their petitions," Habeeb said. "Earlier this year, we put together a team from our central committee to identify local Republicans who understood the importance of being a committeeman and who will represent their precincts well."
"While we will not fill every precinct with an elected committeeman by Monday, we hope to be able to double our numbers," said Habeeb.
He said his goal is a committeeman in every precinct. In cases where no candidate files, the party can appoint a committeeman.
But only elected committeemen are able to vote on appointments to party positions. Earlier this year, for example, only the elected committeemen were able to participate in the appointment of Hulten as the new county clerk, replacing Mark Shelden, who went to work for U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana.
As of Friday afternoon, Champaign County Democrats had committeeman candidates in 16 of 118 precincts.